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Headshot Young Girl

Clare Pirie


Aberdeen, United Kingdom

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Schools who have active parent councils and lots of parent helpers may appear to have strong parental engagement, but are the parents who are involved representative of the whole school community? Are minority-ethnic groups represented? Are parents of children with additional support needs? Or parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds? Goodall (2018) stated “Involvement with schools often leads to and facilitates increased engagement in the home, and authentic engagement with learning is crucial if we are to raise standards for our most vulnerable students.” Research has shown that parental support for learning can lead to beneficial outcomes, including better attendance, more engagement with learning, better behaviour and raised attainment. However, there are many barriers to parental engagement; including time, language barriers, parents’ own experiences of education, as well as practical issues such as child care, transport, and accessibility. This isn’t just about the decision making process, but also representation across volunteers. Learners gain so much from positive role models from different backgrounds than their own, but can also widen their aspirations by learning from people from similar backgrounds to theirs. How do we reach, empower, engage with and include: The parent who can’t attend an open afternoon or class assembly because they work during the day? The parent who can’t attend the parent council meeting because they work in the evening? The parent who can’t attend any school events because of mobility issues, transport costs, or child care? The dad who doesn’t feel welcome in amongst all the mums? The parent who had a negative experience of school when they were younger? The parent who speaks little or no English? The busy, working parent who trusts the school and doesn’t think they have anything to contribute? Goodall, J. (2018) ‘Learning-centred parental engagement: Freire reimagined’, Educational Review, 70(5), pp. 603–621. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2017.1358697.

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